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‘Smart grid’ could cut costs, aid power efficiency

‘Smart grid’ could cut costs, aid power efficiency

National Grid plans to include an area from Saratoga Springs to Clifton Park in a study for new tech

National Grid plans to include an area from Saratoga Springs to Clifton Park in a study for new technology aimed at cutting energy costs.

The power company will ask for federal stimulus money to create two “smart grid” projects to allow customers to assess the cost of using electricity at different times and adjust habits of use.

The projects will be run in Saratoga County and the Syracuse area and could be under construction in the fall.

Company Vice President of Energy Management Martin Cook said the pilot program is expected to cost about $240 million, more than half of that in equipment and new infrastructure.

He said the federal government program could pay half the costs and the state will determine a formula for the other half, some of which may come from customers.

The state Public Service Commission requested applications for projects that would be suitable for funding through the federal economic stimulus program.

Cook said everyone in the target area will be included unless individuals decline. The approximately 42,300 customers are in an area from the Mohawk River to Saratoga Springs and Wilton and include residential, commercial and industrial users.

“The customer savings is expected to be about 5 percent,” Cook said.

A smart grid is a network for electricity transmission and distribution that uses communications, advanced sensors, and specialized computers to improve the efficiency, reliability and safety of electricity delivery and use. By giving the company and customers data on how much electricity is being used and when, decisions can be made such as using appliances later when the cost is reduced.

Company spokeswoman Marcy Reed said “Smart grid will provide customers improved energy use information, automation, and savings as well as an unprecedented amount of choice and control over how they use energy.”

National Grid filed a proposal earlier this month with the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities for a similar smart grid program in Worcester, Mass.

Under the programs, all customers will receive a “smart” meter, and as an option, can have additional equipment installed in their homes that includes special programmable thermostats and other devices that provide data and support energy management.

Eventually, the company envisions that customers will be able to purchase “smart” appliances that will connect to the smart grid and start or stop when programmed to do so.

Additionally, customers will have the option to receive a new rate plan that allows them to save money during periods when electricity use is at its highest across the region.

National Grid is the largest distributor of natural gas in the Northeast serving approximately 3.4 million customers in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Rhode Island.

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